Kentucky Cougar: Wild or Introduced?

Aug. 26, 2015

Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors

A wildlife research organization comprised of experts in the genetics and dispersal of mountain lions across portions of the United States has concluded that a lion killed in Kentucky last December was wild, contradicting the opinion of the state wildlife agency. In addition, you’ll read that more of Minnesota’s concealed-carry permit holders are younger and female, and much more!

Group: Mountain Lion Killed in Kentucky Was Wild
Officials with the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife announced last week that mountain lion killed by a game warden in December 2014 after a Bourbon County property owner’s dog had chased it into a tree was likely brought to the state by someone or had been kept as a pet and released. It was the first of its species to be confirmed in The Bluegrass State in more than a century!

The Kentucky agency said it concluded the animal was too healthy to have been living on its own, and at 5 years old, too long-in-the-tooth for what’s called a “dispersing male,” on the move to claim new territory.

This was either a released or escaped captive lion,” said Fish and Wildlife Deputy Commissioner and wildlife biologist Karen Waldrop.

Cougar experts say that a Kentucky cougar killed by a game warden orginated in South Dakota, contradicting a report from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
Cougar experts say that a Kentucky cougar killed by a game warden originated in South Dakota, contradicting a report from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

But The Cougar Network, a respected group of experts on the species, said genetic testing indicated the animal originated in South Dakota’s Black Hills.

“The thing that was the linchpin for me is that it came from the Black Hills,” said the Cougar Network’s Michelle LaRue, a conservation biologist and research associate in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Minnesota. The Black Hills is a known source of dispersing males, she said.

“We are not an advocacy group,” LaRue said. “We just look at the facts.”

Further, LaRue said necropsy results found no tattoos and the animals claws were intact. Typically, captive animals are tattooed and declawed. And though the animal was in good condition, it was infested with tapeworms and ticks suggesting it had been consuming wild mammals for an extended period.

In recent years, multiple mountain lion sightings have been confirmed in parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, though biologists doubt there are breeding numbers in those states. Sightings have also been confirmed in Illinois, Michigan and Indiana.

Montana Agency Reminds Hunters to Watch For Grizzlies
With Montana’s upland game bird season opening September 1 — and bowhunting season set to open September 5 — the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reminds hunters they will soon be sharing the landscape with the state’s even stealthier grizzly bears that may be stalking similar prey.

It may not be an encounter one hopes for, but all hunters must be aware there is that potential.

Grizzly bears are found throughout western Montana, not just the Rocky Mountain Front, Bob Marshall Wilderness complex and the Yellowstone ecosystem. Black bears also range widely across the state.

It’s suggested that upland game bird hunters and archers hunting in bear country should:

  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it.
  • Hunt with a partner and let someone else know your plans.
  • Remove harvested big game out of the woods quickly.
  • Upon returning to a site where harvested game is left unattended, study the site at a distance for any movement or changes and signal your approach by making plenty of noise.
  • Never attempt to frighten or haze a bear from a carcass.
  • Contact FWP if a bear has consumed a carcass or covered it with debris rendering it unsalvageable.

Minnesota Carry Permit Holders Are Younger And Female
More than 200,000 Minnesotans now hold handgun carry permits, marking an historic high, and state data indicate more permit holders are younger and female, according to a firearms advocacy group’s analysis of latest monthly statistics.

As of August 1, nearly 201,000 Minnesotans — about 1-in-20 eligible adults — have permits to carry a handgun for personal protection, according to the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety released the data last week.

“I’m excited to see Minnesotans exercising their right to keep and bear arms in record numbers, “said Bryan Strawser, executive director, Minnesota Gun Owners Political Action Committee (MNGOPAC). “Permit holders in Minnesota today are more diverse, more female, and younger than ever before, reflecting the growing popularity of the shooting sports and self-defense awareness across our state.”

The most recent statistics indicate that the rate of women and those younger than 50 with permits to carry has grown since 2010. Five years ago, according to the state gun owner’s PAC, fewer than 12 percent of permit holders were women and about 30 percent were 50 or younger. Since then, female permit holders have increased to 19 percent and those younger than 50 grew to slightly more than 35 percent.

FWS Officially Expands Hunting, Fishing on U.S. Refuges
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe announced August 25 that the agency will expand fishing and hunting opportunities on 21 refuges throughout the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System. The final rule also modifies existing refuge-specific regulations for more than 100 additional refuges and wetland management districts.

Hunting will be available for the first time on Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. Fishing will be offered for the first time on four national wildlife refuges in North Dakota: Ardoch Refuge, Lake Alice Refuge, Rose Lake Refuge, and Silver Lake Refuge.

More than 560 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts make up the National Wildlife Refuge System. Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, hunting and fishing are permitted when they are determined to be compatible with an individual refuge’s purpose and mission. Hunting is now permitted on 336 wildlife refuges, and fishing on 275 wildlife refuges.

Quote of the Week
“If you hunt or fish a couple weeks in a row without reading newspapers or watching television, a certain not altogether deserved grace can reenter your life.”
– Jim Harrison,
Off to the Side
, 2002

J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for You may contact him at





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